Day Trips · Scotland · Travel

The Magical World of Harry Potter: Scotland for Harry Potter Fans

For anyone who knows me, they know that I am a huge Harry Potter fan – I even wrote my final essay on it at university, all about how J. K. Rowling underestimates the homophobia in the Harry Potter canon.

Harry Potter was my childhood and I love all the happy memories that it has created for me – so please no hate. I’m not planning on going into the whole issues that have recently come about, and I firmly believe that you can love the art but not the artist.

So moving on from that point – the idea for this post came about when I saw some fantastic pictures of Edinburgh up in Scotland. That’s when I thought to myself, gosh I would love a trip up there, where I could completely submerge myself into the Harry Potter World!

So if you are in the same boat as me, then for nostalgia’s sake, dust off that trusty old Nimbus 2000 or whip out that floo powder and make way for Scotland to live out all HP dreams. Accio Firebolt!

Elephant House Café – “The Birthplace of Harry Potter”

This is by far the most touristy spot in Edinburgh and is perfect for any Harry Potter fan that loves the books – do you know why?

This is where JK started to write parts of her books here. The Café itself claims that this “birthplace of Harry Potter”, although unfortunately this isn’t quite true.

The first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher‘s Stone, was actually written at another small café, which was owned by relatives of J.K. Rowling called the Spoon. Although unfortunately, I have just found out today that the Spoon has had to close due to coronavirus 😦

But how can the Elephant House get away with those claims? Well, they did provide J.K. Rowling a place to write and lots of inspiration outside its windows, and she did complete Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban at this location.

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard as in the Harry Potter Cemetery

Greyfriars Kirkyard is a known respite spot for Rowling. This graveyard can be seen from the Elephant House, so it makes perfect sense that JK used this as inspiration for Tom Riddle’s graveyard.

Kirkyard is where the real-life grave of Thomas Riddell Esquire. Could this be the place that Rowling found Voldemort’s true name, Tom Riddle?

You might be thinking that this is a bit of a stretch, or just a coincidence, but it doesn’t end there. If you walk the cemetery, you can find other names that served as inspiration for some of the characters in the book.

Greyfriars is home to the resting places of Elizabeth Moodie and William McGonagall, aka Mad-Eye Moody and Professor McGonagall.

Walking through the Greyfriars Kirkyard has been know to be a bit spooky, but it is fun to see all the inspiration it brought for character creation in the book.

George Heriot’s School aka Hogwarts School of Magic

Right behind Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is George Heriot’s School where J.K. Rowling’s daughter was a student.

Not only does the architecture of the school closely resemble the description of Hogwarts in the books but the 4 Hogwarts houses (Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor, and Hufflepuff) mimic the 4 houses at Heriot’s (Castle, Lauriston, Raeburn, and Greyfriars).

But is George Heriot’s School Hogwarts?

Well, as we all know, Hogwarts is largely fantastical, Hogwarts has moving staircases, talking gargoyles, a ghost dedicated to mayhem and is sustained by slavery. It’s pure imagination, but it is stunning.

So it’s not Hogwarts, Rowling rejected it as a direct inspiration. Cataclysm! Edinburgh’s Potter fandom hearts do bleed (some tour guides too). But there is still some hope that Hogwarts is real, well real in the sense that it is in Scotland:

Hogwarts is a very real place to me… I’ve always imagined it to be in Scotland… which… it was never made explicit in the books but the British reader will know that because if you do travel for a day from King’s Cross Station in London and you go north, you end up in Scotland. So it was always supposed to be here.

JK Rowling 2002

Victoria Street or Diagon Alley in Edinburgh

Surprise, surprise, this one is also near the Elephant house. Dotted around the capital are a myriad of HP places, including the real Diagon Alley in the form of Victoria Street, with its hodge podge of alluring shops and kaleidoscopic colours, and also the nearby Candlemaker Row.

This is a quaint, narrow, curved street which is said to have provided inspiration for the shops on Diagon Alley. There is even a shop at the bottom of the street called AHA HA HA Jokes & Novelties with looks just like a Harry Potter shop you would see on Diagon Alley.

n the Nineties, Victoria Street even had a Royal Bank of Scotland and a stationery shop in approximately the same position as their magical counterparts, Gringotts and Flourish & Blott’s.

The Balmoral Hotel – Where Harry Potter Ended

It is said that when JK was writing the final book of the Harry Potter series, she could not concentrate in her normal writing places (the cafes that she normally would go to).

She had gained such notoriety that she could no longer write in the cafes she used to love.  So she moved in to Room 552 at luxurious Balmoral Hotel where she penned the last sentence of her last book.

The best part is that if you truly want to have a unique experience, you can book to stay in this room for just £1000 a night…

Of course if the £1,000 a night fee is not in your budget you can always have afternoon tea instead. Otherwise simply stroll by to take a look at the magnificent hotel.

Harry Potter Tour: The Potter Trail

This is a free guided tour through whole Edinburgh, but it is perfect for those who want to fully enjoy Edinburgh and see where Harry Potter was inspired. This is for people who wish to be a part of the Harry Potter world.

The people who do this tour normally dress up as wizards and witches and hand out wands for some magic tricks!

They tell you some great stories of Harry Potter and JK Rowling herself and how Edinburgh’s influence is found throughout the books. She did a marvellous job writing the series, but she mainly described Edinburgh and Scotland.

Other Harry Potter Sites in Scotland

Of course there are plenty of other Harry Potter sites to visit in Scotland but are just outside of Edinburgh.

You could visit Glencoe, Loch Shiel or the Glenfinan Viaduct. All locations that have either been used for filming or been a source of inspiration for the Harry Potter books.

If you want to see the Hogwarts Express going over the Glenfinnan Viaduct make sure to be in the viewing area by 10:45 as the train goes by between 10:45 and 11:15 am. Please note though that (understandably) this is a very popular and can get busy. But if you pick the right day, you could have an incredible experience.

So, there you have it, some of the best places to visit in Scotland to truly experience the Magical World of Harry Potter.

The majority is in Edinburgh, which is obviously where JK was based, but it makes it a lot easier for you Harry Potter fans as you can easily spend a weekend just in Edinburgh. But if you plan it right, you can experience all the Harry Potter places in Scotland. Don’t rush it either as this is an amazing experience!

Have you visited any of these places before or are you planning a trip up to Scotland one day? Or are you a Harry Potter fan? I’d love to hear about all of your experiences! Perhaps you’ve been to the Warner Brother’s Studio in London, or maybe you’ve been lucky enough to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Florida? Let me know in the comments 😀

Don’t forget you can also check out these unique places to stay in Scotland here as well if you planning a trip in the future!

31 thoughts on “The Magical World of Harry Potter: Scotland for Harry Potter Fans

  1. In all the travel I’ve done, I actually have not been to Scotland. England, Ireland but somehow not Scotland. I am going to remedy this miss next year. Your post nicely shows some great places to see and visit. Thanks for sharing,

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    1. Scotland is an incredible place (although half my family is there so I might be bias haha), but you certainly need to remedy this next year as you would an amazing experience. A lot of rich history here, and certainly some amazing views and places to explore as well!

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  2. Harry Potter meant so much to growing up, as well. I’ve been really conflicted about my fandom recently because of the issues you’ve alluded to, and I truly hope JKR is able to reflect and learn. That aside, I would still LOVE to visit Edinburgh and see all these sites. I’ve heard such wonderful things about the city on its own, but getting to see all of these places that inspired the books is certainly on my bucket list!

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    1. Yes I like that, hopefully, she can reflect and learn! But yes Edinburgh is a top place to visit, even without the Harry Potter connections. You’ve got Edinburgh Castle, The Witchery, plus so much more. The architecture, for one thing, Edinburgh’s got a stunning mix of architecture including the medieval tenements, the Old Town and its cobbled wynds – honestly, it’s a great place!

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  3. I love reading this post. The balmoral is such a beautiful hotel I had no idea JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter there. I love Victoria street too I always think of Diagon Alley when I am there.

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    1. The Balmoral is definitely a stunning hotel, I would love to stay in the same room as well, but not sure I could afford it haha! And I’m the same, Victoria street always reminds me of Diagon Alley, plus it just looks amazing!

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  4. It is so fascinating to look at the places that JK Rowling drew her inspiration from! I love how closely the school and Victoria street resemble the places in the movies, more so to me than the descriptions in the books.

    Good writers can paint such vivid pictures, similarities cannot be missed!
    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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  5. We have very recently traveled to Edinburgh and I couldn’t quite believe how many Harry Potter references there were! I’m quite gutted to have missed out on the Harry Potter trail but I’m really pleased to see that I’ve ticked off most of the things on your list!

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    1. That’s great that you managed to see most of the Harry Potter references whilst in Edinburgh, but I’m so gutted for you that you missed the Harry Potter trail (but it’s just a perfect excuse to go back haha)!

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  6. This is such a great post. I agree you can love the art but not the artist and I love that you have pulled all of these locations together in one post for Harry Potter fans. I’ve wanted to visit the viaduct ever since I first saw it in the film.

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    1. The viaduct was always one of my bucket list places that I wanted to visit, but it can get busy there as it’s clearly quite a popular spot. Even so, if you get the time right it would be quite a great moment when the train goes past as well 😀

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  7. This is amazing! Harry Potter was an important part of my childhood as well and I had no idea that there were so many HP locations that you could see throughout Scotland. We’ve been planning a trip there for a while now so that I could explore some of the areas specific to my family’s Scottish heritage. I definitely think we need to add locations on this list to the itinerary.
    I, too, am a believer of love the art and not the artist. That being said, I have been very careful when it comes to any Harry Potter related spending, buying from small business owners independent from the franchise. This way, I avoid putting any more money into her pocket.

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  8. How amazing! Would be wonderful if you got to visit these locations whilst you were up in Scotland! And I completely agree with you, which is why it’s great being able to visit these places without having to put money into her pocket – Scotland gets to benefit from it at the end of the day not her, and we can still enjoy a Harry Potter adventure 😀

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    1. They really are magical! There’s always so much to see at places, that it can be hard to see everything, although I never mind as I love revisiting (so really it’s just a perfect excuse for another trip haha)!

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  9. London always sells itself as the Harry Potter capital – I had no idea Edinburgh and Scotland had so much to offer on the HP front. I need to check out the Hogwarts Express! And Tom Riddle‘s grave!

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